The coronavirus lockdown is pushing small radio stations to come up with creative ways to stay on air and keep communities informed.
As members of broadcast media, radio stations are classified as essential services during the four-week self-isolation period.
Radio Control 99.4FM programme director Felix Carr said everyone at the student-focused station, which usually broadcasts from a studio on Massey University’s Palmerston North campus, was working remotely.
The station bought all the equipment it needed to send audio from home to the airwaves via the internet, and was still doing interviews with artists and other people, he said.
“There are a lot of interesting workarounds.”
The station received a lot of funding from getting students involved, so the next step was figuring out how to get student hosts back on the airwaves, he said.
Broadcasting via the internet meant those student hosts could still do their shows if they had moved home.
“They might even have better internet at their parents’,” Carr said.
One host, Brendon Corner, was able to get on air on Friday thanks to living with Carr, and other options being explored.
Some non-student “music nerds” were investigating doing podcasts for the station, and other workarounds could be used.
Student radio came from humble beginnings, but now had a bit of a sheen to it, so figuring out ways to broadcast during self-isolation harked back to the station’s genesis.
“You drop the standards a bit and you get creative,” Carr said.
“It’s cool to be a part of how we all keep it going through this.”
Manawatū People’s Radio station manager Fraser Greig said all hosts had been told to stay away from the station since the lockdown announcement on Sunday March 22.
Some already made programmes from home, while others were using cellphones to create content.
The Community Access Media Alliance had been working on a smartphone app to create shows, eliminating the need for hosts to wrangle with other software such as Dropbox, he said.
Keeping the station on air ensured Manawatū people had access to locally relevant coronavirus information, because a lot of broadcast news focused on the wider national picture.
Interviews would be done live Monday to Friday, from 8am until 9am, with locals, including MP Iain Lees-Galloway and emergency management staff, to keep people informed, he said.
People would also be informed about community organisations still running and how to contact them.
“We’re going to do that for the duration of the lockdown.”
Those interviews would then go online as a podcast so people having a self-isolation sleep-in could listen to them later, Greig said.
Programming would also feature non-coronavirus content, as people still wanted to listen to shows about their own passions, he said.